Want to Travel the World? Plug Me In.

Mar 24, 2008 (Updated Apr 2, 2008)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:plug&play, somewhat simple installation, great looks and range, cap to cover connectors when unplugged

Cons:software can scar you for life,

The Bottom Line: It's a complement to my D-Link 615 router. Sleek looking, easy setup, positioning flexibility. Just a little bulky if you're using it with a laptop.

I reluctantly was put into the administrative position of buying a router. I came home with this little rectangular box with a pair of antenna attached to the rear of it, but I never really felt that it was well spent money that could make me appreciate my purchase from a distance, all the while I pat myself on the back muttering something to the extent of “good job”, or “way to go” under my breath. So, off I went again to the store, but this time on a quest to get a wireless network card. It’s one of those feelings that occasionally overcomes me and makes me buy something that matches something else that I already bought. Strange, but, isn’t it known that good money always follows bad money? Alright, so it’s not 1999 and wireless cards are less cards and more USB-like devices. Especially considering that they plug into a USB port and you need one to use them. Pretty much gone are the days of ISA or PCI cards. You’d be hard pressed to find anything in that era of technology still on shelves, and this ‘card’ was more than just a card. It was my link to the outside world. It’s also, in a rare case of events, good money spent after good money. Looking back I have no regrets, and believe me, I have to look back as the router is a few meters behind me.

After glancing at store shelves full of routers, hubs, network cards, and other devices that didn’t quite make sense of where I could find such devices useful I decided to go with the D-Link DWA-130 Wireless USB Network Card. The price was right, the n-draft spec seemed to attract my attention and it would complement the router, which I had purchased earlier and placed elsewhere in my house. Actually, there’s one other – and more important – reason why I went with this D-Link card. I’ve been told that one manufacturer’s products will work best with other products from that same manufacturer. Once I had even had the pleasure of going through the firsthand experience of such complications. I always thought that if you have a router and a wireless card they don’t have to be from the same maker. After all, they are speaking the same language so what could be the problem? While all that is true, it’s best to stick to the rule rather than the exception and here’s why: It’s like someone coming from overseas and trying to speak English to you. Can you understand that person? Sure you can. Does it sound like the dialogue you’re used to hearing around you in everyday life? Not so much. You’ll get the gist of what that person is saying, but some words will be dropped and filled in automatically by your brain but at the end of the conversation the end result will be that you understood that person. Your router, on the other hand, is not so forgiving. Either it gets it or it doesn’t. Are you willing to take the chance to find out? Cruel, I know, but sometimes that’s reality. I know, I was born overseas. As a rule of thumb: if you buy Linksys, stick with a Linksys network; if you go D-Link, do D-Link all the way.

The package contained everything I needed, which, quite frankly, wasn’t much. I got the USB network card and a USB extension that allowed me to extend the USB card dongle past the plug of my computer. With a Quick Start guide also came a CD, but please trust me when I say that the CD, save for the drivers on it was almost garbage along with the shrink wrap. I die a little every time I see what kind of useless junk the sellers of such products force upon us. This CD, had I ran it, would have installed everything from the drivers, to software that duplicates everything that Windows already tells me, to software that I can spend money on buying and upgrading to, which still duplicates Windows’ messages and information, but in a more colourful and user-friendly way. Honestly, and I can’t stress this enough… actually, let me try the following: DO NOT INSTALL EVERYTHING THAT THE INCLUDED CD ASKS YOU TO—YOU WILL BE BETTER OFF. TRUST ME!

You basically need just the drivers, which are found on the CD in the appropriate directory. My advice is to discard any printed literature you get with the package instructing you of the installation procedure and plug the device into your computer right away. Yes, right away, as in immediately. Doing so will prompt Windows to notice that a new device has been plugged in and get it looking to installing drivers that make the newly attached device work.

I don’t want this review to turn into a tech-support session, but for the love of a spam-free computer I feel the need to inform you how to complete this installation.

If Windows asks you for drivers just point it to the Drivers directory on the supplied CD. Everything you need to make the device work will be installed and you’ll be up and running in no time. I stress this as when I tried the former (I try everything so hopefully you won’t have to) I got a wireless utility that doubled up what was already displayed by Vista in my Task Bar, but it doesn’t stop there. I also got a lovely utility from Install Shield that would have loved to keep me up to date on software it thought needed upgrading… provided that the utility itself worked. Instead the Install Shield software just displayed the entire window’s contents in the first quarter of the window itself and guess what: there was no scroll bar. I couldn’t scroll down, even in that quarter of a window to see what the heck I was looking at. I had no idea what I was doing and in the end it proved useless. This is aside from the fact that it didn’t explicitly inform me that it would be taking over as ‘the’ update utility for software on my computer. I’m not even sure what software, but perhaps whatever it found that it felt it could upgrade. And the punch line? The wireless utility that was installed didn’t always work – as if it booted with my 18 (or so) other tasks in the Task Bar, and it was a tad slow getting to the finish line it would be loaded after my Internet connection was established and it would just wait… and wait… and wait for an Internet connection, displaying a few orange bars, signaling loss of connectivity, all the while I was surfing the net. Loser! Though shutting down and restarting this application would correct the problem and accomplish... well, nothing really. You'd just have a few nice green bars informing you of your signal strength. Perhaps it may be beneficial for someone with a laptop so they can keep an eye on the signal if they are mobile. On the other hand, I'm not one to use my laptop while walking.

The software is Junk. Hopefully that sums it up for everyone.

One issue worth mentioning is that if I'm really putting a heavy load on the card by transferring lots of data for an extended period of time I lose connectivity. I haven't yet been able to narrow this down to the card or the router, but I'm guessing it's the card as a hard-wired computer connected to the router stays connected. Is it possible for this thing to get too hot? Or perhaps just too much stress on the card will cause it to crash. Again, I don't know what the cause of this is, but after a few seconds connectivity is restored. Maybe it's even my computer that causes this, but it's worth a mention.

So, while this little device provides power, versatility, connectivity, and in the end, freedom; pick your battles wisely. It works when it works, but hit a road block and you won’t know where you took the wrong turn. An orange LED light on the card blinks at random when I'm connected or the USB card is plugged in. It blinks, and I don't know what determines the pattern as transferring lots of data doesn't seem to affect the randomness. It's not overly bright and it's a nice reassurance of life on the network.

I even plugged the USB card directly to my computer’s USB port, sans the extension, and all worked fine. The extension dongle simply allows you to position your USB stick in a more favourable position for Wi-Fi reception. As for the included software; imagine buying and paying for a copy of Windows Vista and getting a copy of a Windows 98 installation CD inside. Whichever you install, will you be able to write email, surf the net, read Word documents? Of course you will. But ask yourself if you’ll do it with ease because if not, you’ll have a hell of a time figuring out why you’re having a hell of a time doing so.

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